The Steampunk Look

The steampunk movement has been bursting from its corseted seams and spilling out over the pop culture scene in a big way over the past few years, expanding to include an aesthetic that influences movies, graphic novels, music and more. While steampunk has gained recognition through exposure on episodes of the hit television shows “Castle” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” the movement’s biggest influence can be seen in the fashion industry.

It’s clear that steampunk style is rapidly outgrowing its niche status, but the subculture remains misunderstood by many and is considered an oddity or a costume by most. In celebration of All Hallows Eve, here is some enlightenment.

In the Beginning
While steampunk’s roots stretch back to the classic sci-fi tales of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells from the turn of the 19th century, the term “steampunk” wasn’t coined until 1987. Author K.W. Jeter first used it to describe an emerging literary genre (i.e., fantasy tales set in an era where steam power is still widely used -- usually Victorian era in Great Britain). Works of steampunk often feature futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architecture and art. Jeter initially meant it as a riff on the more modern term “cyberpunk.” Regardless, the moniker stuck and has since expanded to include an aesthetic that influences movies, graphic novels, music and more.

How to Wear It
With Halloween ahead, it’s the perfect chance to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and create a unique steampunk guise. And it’s a cool look you can keep on rocking long after everyone else has put away their costumes.

Want to try out this fashion trend in which people reimagine modern capabilities with 19th century machines? Simply follow the advice of the famously flamboyant Victorian Oscar Wilde: “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.” And while there are no set guidelines for steampunk fashion, your look should synthesize modern styles influenced by the Victorian era.

Steampunk aficionados advise to “start period and then add.” Begin by pulling out that 19th century American garment staple that’s still hanging in almost every closet: a sturdy pair of trousers fashioned by a guy named Levi Strauss. Or don a suit with a vest, a long wool coat and spats. You can also sport military-inspired garments.

Accent your look with a mix of technological and period accessories: timepieces, parasols, goggles and ray guns. Modern accessories, like cell phones and MP3 players, can also be used in steampunk outfits. But to properly juxtapose 21st century technology and 19th century accoutrement, the devices should be modified to look like they were made in the Victorian era. How? Apply a little antiquing paint, available at most craft stores, to give the product that aged looked. Then, place it in a vest pocket as though it were, say, an antique pocket watch.

For Inspiration
If you need some ideas to handcraft your garments and accessories, or want to purchase ready-made faux 19th century designer fashion, check out the websites

Airship Ambassador

Historical Emporium

Eco-conscious Wardrobe Basics

Going green is big business these days. Environmentally conscious consumers have plenty of choices when it comes to what goes in their grocery carts, what’s parked in their driveways, and what product they use on their bodies. But when it comes to the gear that resides in their closets, eco-friendly pickings are slim at best. And most of them are still designed for the Petrulli oil-using, Birkenstock-wearing crowd.

But that’s about to change.

A growing number of fashion-forward companies have begun to explore ethical sourcing: The use of sustainable materials and new technologies is now making eco-fashion more accessible and stylistically appealing to the average guy.

So forget about all the clothes you have or the clothes you want: These are the essential items that every man must own to live a comfortable, well-dressed life -- and all of them are made in a manner that is safe for the environment.

White Dress Shirt
If you only own one shirt, make it crisp and white. A white button-down or spread collar will go with almost anything and can be worn in almost any situation.

When it comes to eco-approved shirts and other apparel, certified organic cotton is the fabric of choice. Non-organically grown cotton is chemically dependent and, thus, harmful to both the immediate environment and the farmers who harvest it. Organic cotton is grown without synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and thus doesn’t destroy the land it’s grown on and isn’t harmful to handle.

Boll Organic, started by twin brothers Kent and Kevin Russell after they couldn’t find quality, organic cotton dress-shirts, offers one of the best options for the very reasonable price of $35.

Polo Shirt
Next to jeans, the polo shirt is one of the most popular items in a man’s wardrobe for good reason: It looks great in any casual situation and is easy to care for. Outdoor clothing specialist Patagonia has a long track record for producing earth-friendly fashion, offering up a wide selection of polo shirt styles and colors made from organic cotton, ranging in price from $50 to $70.

Khakis
Like jeans, khakis are a staple of the American wardrobe. Casual, yet dressy, Nau’s People’s Chinos, $135, have a stylish slim fit and are made from 100 percent organically grown cotton.

Jeans
Products can be good for the environment in a number of ways. In the case of Roy Denim, the product is eco-friendly because one guy (that would be Roy) makes each and every pair himself. Roy cuts every pattern, sews every stitch, forms each belt loop and even creates the branded leather tags one letter at a time. No huge factory, no trucks or planes crossing the globe carrying loads of mass-produced denim -- just a man and a bunch of recycled machines. When it comes to a company with a tiny carbon footprint, Roy is hard to beat -- even though his jeans ring in at a hefty $275 a pair.

Blazer or Sport Coat
Versatile and classic, a quality blazer or sport coat can be worn in any situation. You can dress it up with a pair of wool pants and a dress shirt for special occasions, or down with jeans and a T-shirt for a leisurely night on the town.

One of the most sustainable, versatile and eco-friendly materials around, hemp also seems to be the fabric of choice among eco-conscious suit makers. It has long been used for fine clothing (actor Woody Harrelson even had Burberry create a custom hemp tuxedo for the 2010 Academy Awards), it looks like linen and it is incredibly durable. Plus, it’s used to make everything from super-luxe, high-fashion houndstooth sport coats from Brunello Cucinelli, on sale for $1,599.99 on Bluefly.com, to inexpensive blazers (under $160) from Rawganique.

Dress Shoes
Most men don’t give their shoes much thought. Big mistake, boys. Shoes finish the fashion statement. Go for a basic, classically styled model; it’s more versatile (i.e., it can be dressed up or down).

U.K.-based Vegetarian Shoes creates classic styles using a breathable synthetic microfiber material often found in yachting upholstery. Our favorite is the sleek antique brogue style, about $113, which has a modern profile that works equally well with a three-piece suit or a pair of jeans.

Sneakers
Casual footwear doesn’t have to shine like dress shoes, but it should still be neat, clean and presentable. So leave those funky-smelling, ratty-looking running or workout sneakers on the porch when you go out on the town, especially since eco-friendly kicks are one of the easiest green fashion items to find.

One of the coolest pairs is the retro-inspired Tauas, about $151 from Veja. The name comes from the region in Brazil where the organic cotton used to make the shoes is sustainably grown; the shoes also feature a sole made from wild rubber.

How to Wear a Hawaiian Shirt

The Aloha shirt is back just in time for the new season of “Hawaii Five-0.” But before you begin rummaging through your closet for your dad’s “Magnum PI” line of fine menswear, you should know that Hawaiian shirts have undergone a major image makeover.

According to Honolulu-based designer Amos Kotomori, who launched his exclusive Aloha shirt collection at Neiman Marcus last fall, Hawaiian shirts are no longer considered tacky attire for summer slackers or Jimmy Buffet backers. They’re now available in muted colors and refined designs. So the dress code that was once reserved for the beach or the backyard barbeque has made its way into business meetings, night clubs and even romantic dinners.

“The time and occasion for an Aloha shirt is really all about the confidence of the wearer,” says Kotomori, whose unique designs each tell a story. “These days, Aloha shirts are often worn tucked in, especially by professionals and those who want a more upscale look.”

Beyond the monumental tucking development, the distinctive Hawaiian apparel can also be made over by pairing it with solid ties and sports coats. “Aloha shirts can be part of a very sophisticated ensemble,” adds Kotomori. “It’s a place where Hawaiian culture meets the rest of the world.”

Aloha Chic Sheet
If you’re fortunate enough to live in the American paradise known as Hawaii, where everything -- including fashion -- is a little more relaxed, you may want to model your look after Alex O’Loughlin’s wardrobe as the new Detective Steve McGarrett in “Hawaii Five-0 .” But if you’re landlocked in one of the 48 contiguous states, you can bring a little luau into the mainland look as well. Kotomori has you covered -- with the right shirt for the right time.

Company Picnic
Mixing business with pleasure can be a challenge, but Kotomori feels you can pull off this relaxed -- but put-together -- look by wearing a fitted, long-sleeve white T-shirt (for extra sun protection) underneath a pressed, pale-blue and white Aloha shirt. Once you add khaki walking shorts and brown sandals to the ensemble, you’ll be ready to flip burgers with your friends and colleagues at the company cookout.

Business Casual
“At the office or in another professional environment, try a monochromatic silk or linen shirt (Tommy Bahama , $110) with a simple motif,” advises Kotomori. “Wear it tucked into black slacks, together with a black belt and dress shoes.” It’s the same cut, but with a more restrained color presentation.

Nightclub
Vintage Hawaiian shirts  are hot -- and club-goers have taken notice. “Try wearing one tucked into a pair of beltless, dark weathered Levis,” says Kotomori. “The retro look is really in, and they look great.”

Romantic Summer Dinner
If you’re springing for a nice gourmet meal with the girl of your dreams, you’ll want to stand out from the crowd. Kotomori recommends updating the typical men’s summer uniform of navy-blue sports coat, pale-blue oxford shirt, and yellow tie. Try wearing the same navy jacket paired with a muted yellow Aloha shirt and khaki slacks to catch a wave of admiring looks.

Formal Event
Don’t be surprised if a little more Hawaiian color might be making a splash at weddings and red-carpet events in the not-too-distant future. “I’m designing a long-sleeve, pleated tuxedo shirt right now,” says Kotomori. “I’d have someone wear it in black silk with a purple and navy blue print.”

Mother-in-Law’s Birthday Party
So if your wife’s mom thinks your Luau look is just another symbol that you are an underachieving Margaritaville mook, let her know that Aloha shirts continue to be a major economic player in the men’s market. Today, 30 percent of shirts produced in Hawaii are shipped out of state with a return of $160 million.

So now when she calls you a useless slacker … at least you can say you’re a stylish one!